Thursday, June 19, 2014

What About Those Odds?

Here in Oklahoma public education we have been living a dystopian nightmare…with a Superindentist, driven by out-of-state overlords, to rebrand, reshape education in our state. From the public schools described in our populist Constitution, to charters and online schools, to vouchers and tax credits for ‘contributions’ to private schools. She has, as her Information Ministry, one of the two major newspapers in the state. Close ties between the paper and the Superindentist are well documented and she wields her power over the paper to smear opponents, to force half-hearted endorsements, and to slant news in her favor.

The Superindentist takes her marching orders from Jeb Bush, leader of Foundation for Excellence, as in FEE-D his political ambitions on the backs of children and teachers….he wants to use his minions to create a national presidential campaign. His minions are charged with creating little ‘utopias’ around the nation to which he can point and crow of his success.

Unfortunately, if you’re not the overlord or his Superindentist minion, you’re not living a utopian existence…You’re living with the control, the shortages, the fear. We have seen more mandates, more demands being placed on schools as support has dwindled. Schools are being starved to prove they are failing. The disdain for our work. The single-minded concentration of power. The disrespect for privacy of our students.

As is often the case, we contributed to our own misery in this dystopian society…we voted for the Superindentist. Or, worse, we didn’t vote at all. We were too busy, or too uninterested. We couldn’t be bothered. We gave the Superindentist and her overlord dominion over public education. And we suffered mightily.

From the first Board Meeting it was clear she would have her way. She bullied, fired, defied. She enlisted the Governor and Legislators. She encouraged bills that changed the landscape of educators’ and students’ work in the classroom. Third graders now flunk based on one test…well, not this year and next. But the law is still in place and it is a labyrinthine task to bring your third grader safely through the red tape and requirements. What did the Superindentist do? Called the legislators who overrode her wishes, “Pathetic and outrageous” and fumed at the insurrection…

Now schools and districts are graded…in a system so deeply flawed research scientists have twice declared it a disaster. What did the Superindentist do? She hired her own researcher, and paid her to disagree with the scientists. So there. The Superindentist continues to support her A-F grading system, recently calling it ‘great’ in a candidate debate. She was the only one.

The Superindentist pledges to work for expansion of charters and vouchers. It’s part of her platform. She pledges to restore the punitive aspects of third grade testing. She pledges to install merit pay, based on the state’s version of value-added measures, a completely discredited system, proved to be junk science.

She travels the state, occasionally dropping in on candidate debates, smiling her insincere smile, speaking in her carefully-modulated hypocritical voice, sounding much like Professor Umbridge from Harry Potter. She has a plan for her second term. She’s been open about much of it. More high stakes tests, more charters, more vouchers.

With HB3399 now law, whoever holds the power in the OSDE will control the manner in which our new Standards will be written. Power to include or ignore educators. Power to revise at will, even after groups have agreed on the Standards. Power to control what and how we teach. If we give her this power, we are fools, willing accomplices in our own destruction.

Unlike dystopian societies in literature, we have the power to change, to reject the Superindentist and her overlord. We created this landscape by our own neglect, and we can change it.

All it takes is a vote…my vote. Your vote. Your neighbor’s vote. Your family’s vote. Your Sunday School class’s votes. Each of us doing our part.

Indiana overthrew the overlord’s representative. Sent him packing back to the overlord, defiant until a scandal brought him down too low for even the overlord to save him.

We can do this…we can vote…vote early, vote Tuesday. We can vote and end this dystopian world now.

Because if we don’t do it Tuesday, the odds will never be in our favor.

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